In Alabama over Christmas, I was driving to the childhood home of a dear old friend – a house I’d been to dozens of times, 40-plus years ago – and I got lost.
Granted, I’d made a quick detour on the way, to marvel at the Sandhill Cranes that congregate by the thousands at Wheeler Wildlife Refuge each winter. But that’s not why I got lost.
No, I blame the Map Lady in the Phone for that… and progress. Which, come to think of it, are not unrelated.
First, the progress. This beautiful house where my friend grew up – which looks just like it did back in the day – is no longer “out in the country.” Since I left Decatur 40 years ago, “the country” has become a neighborhood. I didn’t recognize the place.
And then there’s the fact that the Map Lady in the Phone literally steered me wrong. Told me to turn left when I should have gone straight. Who knew that could happen? I thought the Map Lady was infallible.
Fortunately, the phone still functioned in its original capacity, and I used it to call my mother – she’s smarter than any Map Lady and knows my hometown like the back of her hand – and she easily got me there.
(By the way, that’s a strange cliché if you stop to think about it. How well do you really know the back of your hand? I spend very little time looking at mine and I’m not even sure I could pick it out of a lineup. But I digress.)
I got to the luncheon with my besties of yore only five minutes late, and we had a marvelous time! We’d planned to gather from noon to 2pm, but it started snowing around 1, and we fled at 1:30. Alabama girls don’t know how to drive in snow. We tend to panic.
(Don’t laugh. You live in South Carolina. You know.)
On the way home, I pondered the fact that my 83-year-old mother had managed what the Map Lady in the Phone had not. Say what you will about our Artificially Intelligent future – for now, humans are still your best option sometimes. I find that comforting.
On a related note, I’ve been toiling in the fields of technology on several fronts, lately. Months ago, Hargray informed me that they would be ceasing their email service as of December 15th, 2022. They had been my email carrier for 20-ish years, so you can imagine the anxiety that ensued.
First, I was in denial. The cutoff date was “in the future,” so I ignored it. Besides, Hargray had threatened to do this before, and nothing had come of it, so maybe this time would be the same.
But as December unfolded, I felt the date creeping toward me and a pit growing in my stomach. I finally called Hargray around the 10th, waited on hold interminably for a human voice, then asked for a confirmation of the December 15th deadline. “Yes, ma’am,” I was told. “Your service will definitely end on December 15th.”
“Do you know what time on December 15th?” I asked, with both hope and dread. “Will I have until midnight to get my affairs in order?” (Yes, I was now using the language of the terminally ill.)
“I’m not sure,” the human voice replied. “Probably more like a minute AFTER midnight on December 15th.”
“Wait, so you’re saying it will end in the middle of the night on December 14th? Like, I’ll wake up December 15th and my service will be gone?”
“Probably so, ma’am.”
Sigh. Time to face the music.
To be clear, Hargray handled my personal email account. But my professional address – firstname.lastname@example.org– directed all that email to my Hargray account, as well. In other words, all my email – both personal and professional – had been ending up in my Hargray inbox for 20 years. Much of it was still there. Just in case I needed it.
And because I’m super lazy.
I’d had a gmail account for a few years, which I hardly ever used, so I set about making it my new (and only) personal email account. I asked my “web guy” to reroute all my professional email there by December 15th, then went about changing the email address on all my online accounts.
Do you have any idea how many online accounts you have? I didn’t! The big ones were easy – stuff like Amazon, Facebook, Instagram – but there were lots of others I’d opened over the years, some of which I’d written down on my “passwords” list, others of which had completely slipped my mind. Every day I’d remember another one – a blog here, a Substack there. My subscription to the New York Times. Reuters. My Zappos account. Etcetera. I’m quite certain I forgot plenty of others, but I figured they weren’t that important to me in the first place.
So, December 15th came and went, and all seemed well. I’d sent out notices to all my contacts, and I seemed to be receiving both personal and professional email at my new gmail account. Whew! Could it really be that easy?
No. In late December – after Christmas – all hell broke loose. (Okay, I’m using the term “hell” very… loosely. This was definitely a First World Problem.) I began hearing from my professional contacts – mostly PR people – that their press releases were “bouncing back.” Because of these “bounce backs,” they were sending the releases over and over again. The weird thing is that I was receiving their original emails. On my end, there appeared to be no problem – except that I was receiving the same releases over and over again.
Enter another long, confusing call to Hargray. Turns out they hadn’t actually closed my account on December 15th. In fact, that account was still open, the inbox was full – why would I clean out an inbox that was supposed to be dead?! – and while my professional email had been directed to my new gmail account, it had never been UN-directed to my Hargray account. (Why would my web guy un-direct email to an account that was supposed to be dead?!)
Are you thoroughly confused now? I was too. All you really need to know is this: If you send me a press release between now and January 12th – my new shutdown date, Hargray promises! – you might receive a bounce back notice. If you do, ignore it. I have your release.
These are but two small tales of one woman’s tech troubles. I was thinking of going bigger – maybe writing about the much-discussed Twitter Files. But half the people I know think it’s the most important story of the year, while the other half think it’s a “nothing burger.” I think they’re both wrong, and who needs the headache of another pointless argument?
I also considered including the rise and fall of Sam Bankman-Fried, the once dazzling young cryptocurrency entrepreneur who’s now being compared to Bernie Madoff and may spend the rest of his life in prison. But I’d have to have some understanding of Bitcoin, and it’s completely beyond my ken. (They don’t call it “crypto” for nothin.’) I read a sad article about Sam’s parents, and how their lives have been destroyed along with their son’s. Two Stanford professors who’ve had to resign their positions, they are reportedly generous philanthropists and very nice people. Like most parents, they were merely supporting their child’s dream.
Bless their hearts. I bet they didn’t understand Bitcoin, either.